Summer Reading for Kids, Parents, and Teachers May 27 2018
What would summer be without summer reading?
In our round-the-clock and round-the-world work life, following the technological transformation of the last couple of decades, it is easy never to stop working. We are passing this habit on to our children with online homework assignments and online summertime assignments from school. This online access to each other anytime, day or night, could be described as hijacking our free time. In the spirit of Waldorf education, which we call an “education toward freedom,” it becomes increasingly important to protect free time for ourselves and our children.
In the not-too-distant past, summer was a time of resting and relaxing. The imagination of sitting under a tree with a book, dozing, reading again, with a glass of cold lemonade, still holds on as the picture of summertime peace. There’s more to this than simply the urge to keep youngsters reading to improve their reading skills during their “free” time. When we read in a relaxed state, we take in more deeply the thoughts and pictures in the story we read. Moreover, there’s room in our slower pace to ponder the thoughts about which we read. While pondering, we have time to formulate the pictures and let our thoughts drift, imagine, free associate, and stimulate new thoughts of in response to those pictures provided by leisure reading.
Take, as a good example, The Invisible Boat and the Molten Dragon, by Eric Mueller; a new book just published this academic year for the over-eight-year-old young reader group. This is a book filled with pictures of elemental forces acting upon our earth and working to engage human beings in helping with the protection and cleansing of the earth. The pictures are big and strange and wonderful. While reading it can give the reader pause and, in those pauses, help in creating the pictures offered in the thrilling text. Each child reading will think up the picture in slightly different forms. As the action-packed story gallops along, the pictures might shift a bit. The seasons of the year, the mood and the time of day change the pictures. The reactions of the children in the story change the pictures. If we read too quickly, the chances for this inner picturing are narrowed, the imaginations can be lost.
Another good example might be, The Four Temperaments, a newly published book for grownups. Those who are new to Waldorf education are sometimes baffled by the teachers’ use of these temperaments in understanding each child’s uniqueness. Understanding this characteristic of each person can seem like engaging in archaic, out-of-date thinking, instead of comprehending that this lens through which to understand each has been valuable and valued since the Greek Hippocrates, and has only been obscured in the recent century. As we read this book, humorous and insightful ideas arise about children and people we know. Understanding as to why individuals tend one way or another emerge in our imagination providing “aha!” realizations. In the mode of summer reading, we might pause to think about those we know and pause to chuckle at the archetypical behavior they exhibit. We might feel an upsurging of compassion for a child who has made us impatient. But the pauses and pondering allow for the insight. Read too quickly and these might be gone!
Our summer reading recommendations are offered in the spirit of preserving our free time and taking time to fill free time with whatever we want. The current drive to work all the time can make us draw a blank if we stop. We offer ideas in case you have such a blank that you might yearn to fill. Waldorf Publications is always on the lookout for books that will advance our understanding of what we are trying to do in Waldorf education both as parents and as teachers; books that will deepen our inner transformation to think like human beings with a spirit as well as a soul and a body.
If your summer plans have free time in them — with, perhaps, an ocean or a mountain lake or a “staycation” without myriad chores to accomplish — use our suggestions that might prove useful in the coming year, or might provide some imaginative vacation as well as bright pictures from worlds not our own — fanciful respite from our sometimes brutal “real” world! Whatever you do this summer, relax, and let the wisdom deep inside come out, and let new ideas sink in deeply!